The border between Italy and Switzerland is at the Splügen Pass (2115 m). Splügen Pass (or Passo dello Spluga) connects the Swiss Hinterrhein valley with the Valle Spluga and Chiavenna in Italy.
History of the Splügen Pass
The road over the Splügen Pass was opened in 1823 – earlier than the Tremola road over the Gotthard (1832) but after Napoleon’s road over the Simplon (1805). However, the Splügen Pass was already crossed by foot in Roman times. In the Middle Ages, the Splügen Pass became an important trade route (along with the Septimer Pass) after rebuilding the Viamala, a notorious path along the Hinterrhein River valley. The Splügen Pass provided considerable customs revenue for goods transported on horses and mules. The Splügen Pass lost its significance with the opening of the Gotthard railway in 1882.
The Gate to the Picture Book Paradise
On the top of the Splügen Pass is the Italian customs, and a bit lower on the northern side the Swiss customs. There are no routine border controls and no border guards, as Switzerland is part of Europe’s borderless Schengen Area. However, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. Dutiable goods therefore have to be declared at the Swiss customs station – using a customs form that can be dropped in the mailbox.
Cycling the Splügen Pass
Cycling from Chiavenna in the South, the Splügen Pass has an altitude gain of 1788 meters over 29 kilometers with spectacular views over the valley from the road in the rocks, and the tarn Lago di Monte Spluga near the top. From the northern Swiss side, the altitude gain is only 656 meters over 9 kilometers leading over a road section with ten serpentines of equal length.